BOSTON -- Massachusetts voters heading to the polls on primary day in this year's special U.S. Senate election will find something that was missing from last year's Senate race -- a choice of candidates.
Three Republicans and two Democrats say they've collected more than the 10,000 certified signatures needed to land a spot on the April 30 primary ballot.
Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said Wednesday his volunteer signature effort was successful and he'll join Norfolk state Rep. Daniel Winslow and Cohasset businessman Gabriel Gomez on the Republican side. Two Democrats -- U.S. Reps. Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch -- are also facing off.
Voters on each side will decide which candidates will go on to represent their party in the June 25 election.
Sullivan had been the biggest question mark. Unlike Winslow and Gomez, the Abington resident had relied solely on volunteer signature gatherers. Winslow and Gomez had relied on a mix of volunteer and paid gatherers.
Wednesday at 5 p.m. was the deadline for dropping signatures off at local city and town clerks to be certified. The signatures must be collected later and delivered to Secretary of State William Galvin's office before a candidate's name can officially be added to the ballot.
Sullivan said he was excited to submit so many signatures after launching the drive just 12 days ago. He said the ability to gather so many signatures so quickly shows he has a groundswell of support. Sullivan described himself as fiscally conservative and said Congress and the White House share the blame for the current fiscal stalemate.
Sullivan, who likely has the strongest name recognition among the three Republican candidates, said he does not see himself as the front-runner, adding that, "it's been a long time since I've gone out and campaigned."
Sullivan, who served as Plymouth district attorney before being named U.S. attorney for Massachusetts in 2001, staked out conservative positions on a series of issues. He describes himself as "pro-life" on abortion, said gun bans "do not have the results you want them to have," and opposes gay marriage.
Today, Gomez will formally launch his Senate bid more than two weeks after releasing a video saying he was getting into the race.
The Republican and former Navy SEAL, who has so far refused to hold public events or speak to reporters, plans to tour the state, with stops in Quincy, Shrewsbury and West Springfield.
Markey planned to thank volunteers who helped collect signatures for him with a live webcast to dozens of house parties across the state Wednesday evening.
On Tuesday, Lynch won the backing of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the largest union of registered nurses and health professionals in the state. Markey had previously won the endorsement of the Massachusetts Teachers Union, the largest union in the state.
The crowded primary field is a sharp contrast to last year's high profile Senate race pitting Brown, a Republican, against Democrat Elizabeth Warren.